Whether you’re just now looking at your choice of GCSEs or are established in a career in medicine and looking for a change, one of the major areas you’ll be considering are mental health jobs. What is like working in mental health? What options are available? Depending on your training and education, working in mental health is a flexible proposition: you can define what your career will look like yourself, based on your preferences. As long, of course, as you are ready to put the work in, and accept that for at least the early stages, and possibly throughout your working life, it’s going to be very hard work, with less tangible rewards than other, less taboo kinds of medicine.
Today we’re having a look at one possible career path through mental health work to help you make an informed decision about your future.
Mental health nursing is a tough path, but a rewarding one, as you get to make a daily difference to people’s lives.
As a nurse, you are the engine of treatment for patients, whether they’re inpatients at a specialised mental health facility or outpatients with regular assessments and check ups. As a nurse, you have a more personal relationship with patients than doctors, who assess, diagnose, prescribe and, often, simply move on. You will make sure patients understand the guidance for their medication: when to take, what the likely side effects are, and where to get help. If you’re in regular contact with patients, you will also find yourself ensuring they are taking their medication on the right schedule, and reminding and reassuring them about it as needs dictate.
You will also frequently be a first point of contact not just for patients but for their families, and help to translate the technical language of diagnosis and treatment into something they can understand and work with day to day.
In the future, you could aspire to be a nurse specialist or consultant, two more senior roles mirroring the career progression of doctors. Both balance additional training with additional authority and of course higher wages, but they have a distinctly different focus.
A Nurse Specialist focuses more on patients and treatment, with, as the title suggests, a specialism in a particular area. If your heart remains with patients and their care, hands on, this is the for you to pursue.
Nurse Consultants take a more managerial role: they maintain some hands on time on the ward, but become more involved in setting hospital policy at a high level, so if you want to make a structural difference, this is something you should pursue.